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A Emos view - a open view (24 replies)

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2E0EMO
3 years ago
2E0EMO 3 years ago

So this may seem like a rant but this is my view as a young amateur. Where does the time go. At time of posting we nearly 3/4 way though the year and i think wow i have barely used the radio. Where has the time go. I always said i hoped to have done my M0 by the end of 2016 and now that looking more like 2017.

As a under 30 i work 5 days a week and most radio i do now is in the office using business licence channels. I went out sailing on a 26th August to the clacton air show and the first time i worked mobile on a boat. I only had the hand held and even then the programming on them was out of date.

Most weekends i would love to be on the roof to adjust the antennas and build something radio based. Now i rather just watch TV and work on other projects. Before i would have the radio on but now i barely hear much going on.

Yes over the last 18 months i have fallen out with two clubs and sadly finding a club i fit in to is very hard. Most are to old or to far up their own backside. There is no "Lads / True geeks" clubs around. I been a amateur for over 3 years and my first year i was very active.

As i close this i wonder for me has the hobby died or lost it's appeal to me. Have i reached that stage of leave the hobby for a while and hope to come back in time. The feeling should i not set my rig back up after redecorating the man cave.

I will add just for this i do suffer depression and anxiety so it may just be that playing up or maybe i just noticed my life moving on.

Radiobuster
Radiobuster
3 years ago
Radiobuster 3 years ago

Big topic . . valid points!

Pete M0PSX
Pete M0PSX
3 years ago
Pete M0PSX 3 years ago

Hi Mitchell,

Just thought I'd add a quick message with a few personal thoughts on your post.

I can sympathise with you on this. I have gone through stages of being very active in the hobby, to very disillusioned with the whole thing, then back to being passionate again. In some ways, that's the great thing about the hobby - you can step away, then return when time/mood allows.

I still think that the hobby has a huge amount to offer, and I'm still learning all the time. Yes, there's not much happening on 2m locally, but other modes are still very active. DMR has grabbed a few people's attention, and HF is still buzzing. Maybe a new mode will re-ignite your interest?

As for clubs - We're lucky that we have 20 in the Essex area (far more than most areas), but some are not very active, some are not very appealing to the younger generation of hams, and some are some are there just to run social events and talks for existing members. It also comes down to what you, as a club member, want and expect from your club.

Looking at the numbers locally, a fair percentage of amateurs aren't active members of any club. Perhaps they don't feel the need to be a member of any club to enjoy the hobby. Others are members of clubs, and cherry-pick the events they want to attend, regardless of which club is running the event. It may be that if there's not a local club that serves your needs, you don't actually don’t need to be a member of a club - what you need is a group of like-minded locals to meet up and have some radio fun with.

As an example, locally, members of our group meet for informal field days in Galleywood and Shoebury, just to have fun with radio. Yes, events are done under the Essex Ham banner, but this is largely for promotion and insurance reasons. Other groups do likewise - a bit of fun with radio, without the buerocracy of a club, and without the politics.

Just like the solar cycle, with its highs and lows, I suspect your interest will rise and fall (mine has). For me, the 'fix' was not being afraid to take a step away when needed, and also finding the right group of friends that you can enjoy radio with.

Not sure if any of that helps, but just thought I'd pass on my thoughts...

Pete M0PSX

Phoenix ARC
3 years ago
Phoenix ARC 3 years ago

This is a long reply - the short one is probably unprintable!

As Pete says, you do not need to be involved in a club, but it helps. The difficulty is that clubs are increasingly finding the cost of accomodation is rising and that means higher subscriptions. That, in turn, can seriously affect membership numbers and thereby general enthusiasm. But fundamentally I believe that clubs have become increasingly disfunctional over the past decade or so as new technologies have replaced old ones - and that ranges from packet radio to SDR, VHS video to Youtube - all of which have empowered the individual but disempowered clubs that still cling to the old ways. There is often a tension between young people in clubs and old farts who are wedded to an antediluvian mindset. The solution often being 'forget radio, make a brew and have a natter' - tea and biscuits clubs do not appeal to younger people.

Many clubs seem to be suffering from near-terminal atrophy: they are wasting away through lack of activity. That doesn't mean that there aren't any active, progressive and interesting clubs, but it becoming clear that poor performers outnumber the good performers by a very wide margin.

There can be little doubt that the poor and declining HF conditions have discouraged many individuals and clubs from spending time and energy in organising and running 'interesting' events. But I do suspect that atrophy in clubs has a deeper cause and has been developing for a long time.

Here in the Midlands (as elsewhere) some clubs seem to be just social (or anti-social) care centres for disaffected old guys who have "done it all before" but who won't provide any leadership and guidance for the large numbers of new Foundation Licensees who often clearly need it and would welcome it.

The result can be that those newbies wander off and get stuck in to HF operations etc. with much more modern equipment than the old duffers have (but don't seem to use). But without the benefits of club-related activities individuals may not get much opportunity to learn more about amateur radio, or to participate in field days or contests.

It really doesn't need to be like this. But across the country keen people are seemingly facing increasingly difficulties finding clubs that are not in a deep rut, or even in a dark, dark tunnel of navel-gazing paralysis and self-congratulation! It surely is time that some of the old farts who are often responsible for the 'dead hand of the committee' scenario to step aside and let new people become real stakeholders in clubs and thereby in the wider aspects of the hobby.

Drinking tea and moaning about partners on a NOTA - Not On The Air night - doesn't contribute much to the hobby, nor is it good enough for any club, anywhere, simply to be the best Foundation Licence factory, which seems to be the main criteria for Club of the Year. In inactive, poorly focussed club is little more than another amateur radio tombstone – just look at most clubs web pages: they are often memorials to past achievements and dead ideas.

I know of one club which has had the same chairman for almost 20 years, and he is not really interested in using a radio, just in vintage wirelesses and record players and the 1960s. He is really just a puppet for a caucus of old farts who really run the club to their agendas. That is hardly going to encourage anyone to join. The average age of the club is over 60, and increasing.

However, I run a progressive, innovative, virtual club with a strong programme of activities, and even we struggle to get people off their backsides and participating actively. So the inference is that there is widespread feeling of despondency in the air, both within clubs and for individuals. Without much leadership coming from the majority of clubs across the country anyone could be forgiven for asking "what the hell are we doing with this hobby?"

The trouble is that the innovation shown by the more successful clubs is not being seen by those that are stubbornly inward looking, and they seem unwilling to peep over the edge of their rut - atrophy is inevitable. Collaboration between clubs seems at an all time low, and that is in a hobby which is focussed on communication – from experience, I find that most clubs are really incommunicado when approached with fresh ideas about joint projects – shameful!

Of course, individuals who feel that their only course of action is to eschew clubs and just tough it out on their own might also eventually decide that there ain't much point carrying on with the hobby. But they could, nevertheless, consider two things: a coup d'etat - taking over the failing clubs and banishing the old farts to tea-making duties, or they could start some form of club (either virtual or actual). Both are difficult, though not impossible.

So my final analysis is that there could be a great future for clubs, but only if they make real efforts to get new people and new ideas, and that means painful but necessary root and branch changes for many. The main issue being that getting off one's backside (clubs or individuals) is not particularly difficult, it is principally a state of mind not a clinical condition.

Radiobuster
Radiobuster
3 years ago
Radiobuster 3 years ago

"what you need is a group of like-minded locals to meet up and have some radio fun with" [Pete] EXACTLY!

And be flexible - "a voluntary association of like-minded individuals with common goals" and with the main 'rules' being fair play, individual responsibility and common sense. More rules and more 'organisation' mean more hurdles . . Keep it simple. But be aware of attracting people who are aimlessly wandering around club to club because they may have no 'staying power' and who may need more attention than they are worth.

Innovate don't stagnate - two or three active and committed people can achieve more than a large club that is floundering - just do what you enjoy and do it well even if it raises the hackles of the OFB (Old Fart Brigade) - it's your hobby as well as theirs.

Pete M0PSX
Pete M0PSX
3 years ago
Pete M0PSX 3 years ago

Sadly, much of this rings true from my own personal experience too.

As you say, it really doesn't need to be like this. Sadly though, most newcomers get into the hobby via a club's training course, then find that the club may offer little more to them - tea and biscuits just doesn't cut it.

I've only been in the hobby for 5 years, three of which were spent "inside" clubs trying to prevent them from shooting themselves in the feet. As you say, many clubs are clearly opposed to change ("heritage over hobby"), which to an extent is fine as long as there are fresher clubs to fill the gap.

We've seen a few new clubs come to the area in recent years here in Essex, with mixed results. Club collaboration would indeed seem to be the answer, but may be an uphill struggle. H

ere in Essex, there have been three recent initiatives to get clubs to work more closely together. They've all failed. I put this down to a mix of apathy and politics. I was involved in helping to set up a new club, with a small group of others fresh to the hobby keen for change. Sadly, it didn't work out as planned, and I (and others) were "encouraged" to take our new ideas and enthusiam elsewhere, by the committee's more experienced amateurs. What I noticed at the time was the perceived belief that clubs are in active competition with each other - which of course, they aren't, and shouldn't be. I've seen members of clubs shunned (and encouraged to leave) because they were active members of other "rival" clubs. Crazy...

Interesting to see the paralells between PARC in the Midlands, and Essex Ham here in the South. There's definelty merit in the "virtual" model. Since being "encouraged" to move out of helping to steer a traditional club, I've been working with a group of passionate radio people who are far more interested in RF, field events, technology and experimentation, than tea and politics, and the last two years have been a rollercoaster of new opportunities. A handful of the local clubs have also lent their support to the idea of sharing with a virtual club, and they've seen the returns. Perhaps a mix of legacy, new entrants and virtual groups is needed?

Any of this sounding familiar with what's happping in the Midlands?

Pete

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M5AKA
3 years ago
M5AKA 3 years ago

Pete commented "a fair percentage of amateurs aren't active members of any club" and got me thinking, how many aren't members? A very rough calculation indicates that in Essex about two thirds of amateurs are not members of any traditional club that's about 800 amateurs across the county.

While there are nominally 20 clubs in Essex there are only 11 which hold formal meetings and of those just 6 are able to run Foundation training courses.

The Phoenix Club M0PHX commented "Collaboration between clubs seems at an all time low, and that is in a hobby which is focussed on communication"

Club Demographics may be a factor there. Realistically those in their 70's and 80's are unlikely to drive as much as they did in their 20's. They'll still drive around their home town on roads they are familiar with but they'll avoid driving on unfamiliar roads, this is especially true in the evenings when light levels are low. This stops inter-club visits stone-dead.

Again while those people may be able to continue putting a lot of effort into activities "they've always done" a number in that age range would find it very difficult to take on completely new activities which they are not familiar with.

Perhaps for Collaborative Ventures it would be better to approach amateurs in the area directly rather attempting to work through people who already have enough on their plate?

It is perhaps unrealistic to expect a single club to cater for all the diverse aspects of the hobby or indeed a membership age range from 15-95 - what is needed is a lot more clubs.

There is no reason why a town should only have one club, if a club doesn't do the things you want, create a new one. Ideally there might be several clubs both formal and informal. What is needed is someone willing to provide the spark to get a new club started.

73 Trevor M5AKA

Pete M0PSX
Pete M0PSX
3 years ago
Pete M0PSX 3 years ago

Re. Club Numbers

Thanks Trevor. As you know, I've done quite a bit of work on stats across Essex. Here's a few numbers from my research.

Callsigns in Essex: 2930
Amateurs in Essex: 2568

Membership numbers are hard to come by, as they're rarely published, but using published data, you can make some assumptions.

On the assumption that we exclude 'virtual' clubs, such as Essex CW Club and Essex Ham, let's look at the largest traditional club in Essex, CARS.

Their site quotes "over 120 members". Their primary catchment area is Chelmsford, but they have lots of members outside Chelmsford - my guess is around 20% are outside Chelmsford. Additionally, let's assume 10% are honorary/SWL/inactive, then we're at 84 members in the catchment area. My stats show 590 amateurs in that same catchment area.

That would equate to around 15% of amateurs in catchment at best. Remove committee members from the maths, plus those I have no data for (callsign withheld/No QRZ), and it's even less. And that's for the largest traditional club. Obviously areas such as Southend, Colchester and Brentwood don't do as well, stats-wise.

Pete

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M5AKA
3 years ago
M5AKA 3 years ago

Thanks for pointing out major error on numbers, I had around 1200 in Essex! The 2536 figure transforms the number not in clubs - 83% around 2100, and that's with me being generous on estimating the numbers who might be in the smaller clubs.

While not everyone would be interested in joining a club the numbers suggest there's scope for many more clubs in Essex

73 Trevor M5AKA

Phoenix ARC
3 years ago
Phoenix ARC 3 years ago

Yes, it does seem that PARC and Essex Ham have much in common as well as a somewhat different 'value-set' compared to many long established clubs, so we do like to participate in this forum when 'big topics' like this pop up – maybe we can reassure 'Emo' a little . . .

Sure, PARC and other 'progressive' clubs would love to have more active paid-up members as well as 'supporters' who simply offer whatever help they can, but it certainly is hard work finding enough committed people to be sure that all of our activities are well organised and successful. Holidays, work, family, domestic pressure, and strange new roads(!), alongside a general feeling of “why are the bands so poor?” and “where is this hobby going?” all conspire to against any club and even limit opportunities for avid enthusiasts. But that's life.

Nowadays, with so much technical information (of varying quality) readily available on the internet it is easy to get help and advice quickly on-line from people all over the world, so there's no need to wait for a club meeting which may not be focussed on technical topics. However, that alone doesn't render clubs obsolescent. They still have a vital role to play; not just in being Foundation Licence Factories, but in providing a much wider and much needed 'mentoring environment' for new licensees, not least in improving operating skills and an understanding of topics not well-covered by radio courses, such as antenna and feed-line design, propagation and (sometimes) world geography!

PARC is not very well placed to do that, but the challenge of poor propagation this year have led us to think more broadly about what we can achieve – we are having to think “outside the box” which for some clubs seems to be much more like a coffin!

It is clear that no one club in a region could provide everything that a new (or established) radio ham might desire. So the future surely must involve greater collaboration between clubs in order for them to specialise in what they are good at doing, and for their members to achieve what they wish, and for the hobby to embrace new ideas. That leaves opportunities for some clubs to fully diversify into making tea and baking biscuits on a regional scale - maybe a new type called Marconis, a bit like Garibaldis but with alternating currants. Others might specialise in hilltop DXing or even SAGHOTA.

But the widespread inertia seen in ever so many clubs is puzzling. PARC's numerous programmes – from serious to a bit frivolous – have given us a solid following on-air and on social media, and that is greatly appreciated. We see many clubs around the country following our activity – which great. But perversely, we get zero responses from most of the clubs (hereabouts) which we regularly inform about our 'open-door' events. These events are made all the more interesting by having fresh faces appear and take away new ideas, even if they never become members.

The really puzzling part is that we are ab exceedingly small club and can only operate as a virtual club, but we try to do a lot of 'innovative' things (when there's any propagation). Conversely, most local clubs are much larger, have permanent shacks with expensive equipment but are rarely heard on the air. We suspect this happens all over the country.

As far as we see things, the future must lie in more inter-club collaboration which will need to be as much 'virtual' as 'face-to-face'. As for the 'tea-drinking' quips, wait until April when we may have a bit of a surprise – not another SAGHOTA (which is almost a virtual club) but something equally interesting (hopefully).

Final aphorism - the Amateur Radio hobby is all about what YOU make of it, not what others don't.

Pete M0PSX
Pete M0PSX
3 years ago
Pete M0PSX 3 years ago

Inter-club support.

Yes, to an extent, I agree that the less-mobile will be less willing to travel to other club's venues, but I'm not sure that's the reason there's a lack of co-operation. The Canvey Rally and W&S Open Days prove that amateurs will travel (even in winter)

The Essex Skills Night proves that co-operative events can and do work, provided there's co-operation and cross-promotion. Club-agnostic events do well, if promoted properly, and people get behind them.

Sadly, this doesn't happen often. Two obvious local examples:

The Three Counties CC VHF/UHF Contest. All clubs in Essex invited to support the Suffolk/Essex/Kent event - only two got involved

TAARC's 2m activity days - All local clubs asked, and only one bothered

In both of these two examples, no driving required, and club members could operate from their warm shacks .

I do agree though that the "we don't do that sort of thing" attitude is evident. This woulnd't be a problem if newer members were empowered to explore some of the newer ideas - but in my experience, that doesnt happen very often.

More clubs may well be the answer, or as RadioBuster suggests, just groups of likeminded individuals exploring areas of the hobby that interest them.

Pete

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